Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Too many chiefs, not enough indians

This morning, I participated in a telecon for a team studying a national safety issue. While we were waiting for all the participants to dial in, some of the others debated who was more entitled to "senior moments". I learned that I was the only team member under 65.

I am used to being the only woman. I am used to being the youngest. I am not used to being the youngest by almost 25 years.

They all treat me very well; they know that I write most of the software for the data analysis and do the bulk of the data fusion and visualization work. The professors have graduate students; the senior scientists at national labs leave that kind of work to their subordinates.

I am that sandwich generation of technical workers that I wrote about in Opting Back In.
Although the aerospace and defense industry has made a concerted effort to attract new employees, there is a large gap in the 30–40-year-old range, where it is estimated that supply is actually 29–46 percent below demand. These are the people with theoretical as well as practical knowledge—the individuals who will be the program managers, both in industry and on the government side in the next 6–10 years, and the concern is that there may not be enough of them to fill vital positions.
I am grateful for the opportunity to work with and learn from so many distinguished scientists. I just wish, for the sake of knowledge transfer and my workload, that the budget included more young and mid-level scientists.

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